Thick leaves brushed against their armor. Made custom on a planet fifteen light-years away. Tendrils of pollen riding eddies coursed through the air.
“I’m losing it, Apho, I don’t know if I'm going to be able to stick this one out with you.”
“Hang in there, give it another minute.”
Teshel cut through a branch, her sword hummed. She was starting to get lost. Not in a “Where the heck are we?” sense, but in a “Where am I?” sort of way. Born, raised, and spent the majority of her life on a city-planet. This jungle, half a galaxy away, was as far from home as she could get. Not in distance, but in difference.
Apho swung his rifle to bear, grunted. Nothing, or something already gone. “Oi, Teshel,” he dropped next to her. She was shivering. Her whole body twitching like one of the innumerable leaves surrounding them.
“I…I’m”—she turned, reached for Apho, fell to her side. Her outstretched hand grasping. “Help, please.”
“Golgo, we need an immediate evac.”
“Ey? You done already? Find it?”
“No, but Teshel is having a hell of a time. We need to get her out of here.”
The plants, the pollen, the leaves, the bark, her breath, the soil, her hands. Dirt, skin, air. Cells and particles. One and the same. There isn’t much of a difference, not when you look close enough. The body was reaching for another, its hand trying to do something. And words. The mouth…No, the mind? Ah, it was hard to tell. Something wanted to communicate, express something that seemed important. And, at the same time, some other part didn’t see the point.
“H-help me re…Remember.”
“You’re Teshel,” Apho said. “You’re a merc, you work with me and Golgo. I’m Apho. Golgo is bringing the ship over now. We’ll get you out of here. You, Teshel. You were born on Rask. Lived their most of your life. You can’t handle being in nature for long. I should have listened to you.”
Teshel. Huh, right, a name. Things had names. Named things were different from the unnamed. Once named a thing could be put into a category. If she got back to a city, back to a place where everything had a name, she’d be okay. Out here, in the jungle, it was too easy to get lost.
“Okay,” said Apho. “There’s Golgo now. Let’s go.”
Like a droplet of water rising from an ocean, she became Teshel again. Pulled from the writhing mass of the jungle where she was no one thing, but all. She’d have to ask Apho how he did it, stayed himself. At the moment, laying on the ship’s floor as it shot into the atmosphere, she could only manage a weak “Thank you.” And yet there was a lingering sensation only perceived now that she was herself again. A feeling of being isolated. A feeling of loss. What a paradox.